On the day of the September 11 massacre, I was off work, post-call from a night at the hospital. I was puttering in the garden. Then I was on the internet. A friend messaged me to look at the news. One of the twin towers was on fire.
I thought, that's bad. But not earth shattering. Except to whoever was in the tower. He said, no, this is a major fire.
I turned on the news, and saw it was a lot more than that. This was a horrendous fire. Then, watching the news, an airliner flew into the second tower, and it was engulfed in flames. There were people falling from the towers, to their deaths. During those falls, they knew they would die in minutes, or seconds.
Here I am, maybe 3,000 miles away, watching the scene of mass murder. At the time, no one knew who was responsible.
Then, I watched on TV as a tower collapsed. At that moment, I was stunned. I kept thinking, there is something not just wrong, but surreal, about that. On the news, they said there may have been 40,000 people inside.
I emailed my partner, who was in China at the time. He didn't believe me.
Then, the 2nd tower collapsed.
There was a news announcement. Another plane crash, at the Pentagon. Another plane headed to DC.
On that day, thousands of people were murdered. Many thousands more lost their loved ones, their child, their parent, their sibling, their friend, their lover, their spouse, their breadwinner, their confidant, their colleague.
On that day, the sky emptied of airplanes. No vapor trails. Clear blue sky. Eerie, and silent.
There are not many things that happen in a lifetime, when we can say "that day changed the world", or "changed our way of life". But on that day, the world did change, and our way of life did change. For the worse.
Looking back, at all of the water under the bridge, it feels like half a lifetime. Economies were devastated Families lost their source of income. We fought 2 wars. Thousands more died, possibly hundreds of thousands. Politics in the US became more dysfunctional, more brutal, more harsh. The world became more harsh.
Fast forward to today.
Today at work, no one seemed to remember, today is Sept 11th. People do talk about current events, but not this.
It's a day that we should all remember, up close and personal, in detail. I' want to commemorate the date. So much happened. So much changed. Those of us here, now, despite what we've gone through, we are the fortunate ones.
I don't have anything political, or social, or religious to say today. Just, that I remember.
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Like the Kennedy assassination, and the Challenger Space Shuttle explosion, I too remember exactly where I was. I was getting ready to go into Court and do the traffic call for the county where I was a prosecutor. An investigator came in and said a plane hit one of the World Trade Center Towers. I thought, "That's a shame, and I hope too many people weren't hurt." I went into the Courtroom with a very disagreeable judge, and did the usual schtick on speeding citations, suspended licenses, and no insurance. Typical day. At a break, I went back in the office and learned that the 2nd tower had been hit. Strangely enough, and before anyone said anything, I blurted out, "It's that motherfucking bastard Osama Bin Laden who did the embassy bombings and the USS Cole." One of the few times I've ever felt prescient.
I watched a few days later as the world rallied for my country. I felt a deep sense of the outpouring of good will from all over the planet, as people from far off lands were waving the American flag and showing their sympathy and support. I recall being on the phone with an Army recruiter about a troubled kid I was trying help get in the military and get him away from the crappy life he had here in Southern Illinois, I asked about re-uping, being a veteran. He thanked me and as kind as he could be, let me down gently as he told me I was now too old.
A year and a half later, all that good will was squandered, and Iraq became the focus. A country that had nothing to do with with the devastating hit we took. From there, it was a downhill slide into a dysfunctional government, the resurgence of nativist bigotry, one American against the other, and rationality being superceded by jingoistic and meaningless nationalism. There's times I think Bin Laden won.
I don't know if Bin Laden won or lost. I don't know what was his goal. It may have been pure nihilism.
All I know is that thousands of people were murdered, and in their last moments, many knew they were dying, and many had to decide to die rather than die worse. And the world overall is worse because of it.
Outside of my own cultural centrism, I know there have been lots of events, worse to more people, than 9/11. For examples, the arrival of the first Europeans to the Caribbean, an event not known to tens of millions of Americans whose way of life would be destroyed, and who would die and whose villages and cities and civilization would die. Pearl Harbor. Kristallnacht. The shooting of Archduke Ferdinand. The first cases of AIDS - by accident, I was reading the CDC publication of the first cases, just because I liked reading it.
But in this case, 9/11 is more raw, more recent, so I feel more intense about it.
... thousands of people were murdered. Many thousands more lost their loved ones, their child, their parent, their sibling, their friend, their lover, their spouse, their breadwinner, their confidant, their colleague.
... Politics in the US became more dysfunctional, more brutal, more harsh. The world became more harsh.
A year and a half later ... a downhill slide into a dysfunctional government, the resurgence of nativist bigotry ... rationality being superceded ....
Well said, Pat and Sentient!
It wasn't "just" the mass murder: there's no question that Bin Laden and his mind viruses made the world a doubly worse place that day.
A friend of mine owes his success in life to the courageous efforts of Muhommed Atta and his more muscled colleagues. At the time he was a London based employed computer consultant/salesman in a company based in the twin towers which, following the event, lost most of it's personnel and infrastructure. Within days my friend had stolen the companies client base and set up his own business which he owns to this day. His business expanded internationally and he now lives in the United States with his new wife and children. Allah be praised for his good fortune.
On 9/11 I had an abusive boyfriend who beat me up a lot emotionally and temporarily broke up with me saying that I wasn't reacting the right way.
Yes there is certainly worse. Roughly 50,000 people in the USA die each year in car accidents. That must be horrific, but it's dispersed in space and time, and people rely on their cars, so we live with it.
The atomic bombings in Japan were much much worse than 9/11.
Terrorism is a media event. I've heard that terrorists schedule their events to optimize the media coverage. 9/11 was significant, but more because of our reaction than because of the people who died.
I'm sick of seeing those videos with planes flying into towers and people jumping, because the world is full of horrors and I don't want to react on demand, to an iconic horror.
Horror motivates people and we need to perceive for ourselves what is horrifying in the world so that we can choose our actions right. Terrorists try to determine for us, what our motivations will be.
That's pretty good, Luara.
no lessons to be learned (that I can discern)
9/11 jumpstarted the "New Atheists". And probably made people in general think less favorably of religion.
It was a very powerful illustration of what people of profound, deep faith can do. They can make an airplane into a suicidal human-guided missile and smash it into a building! Wow.
There has been very little effort to try to find out the underlying cause of 9/11. Which is too bad because maybe it will be a nuclear bomb the next time.
Any time something terrible happens, one should figure out how to prevent it the next time. But it's apparently politically incorrect to look for underlying causes. Prevention seems to be limited to beefing up our security and military action. The "truthers" purport to be looking under the surface - is it such a threatening question that people will accept only zany answers?
I agree. I'm not sure if this is a product of PC Liberalism or not, but it seems as thought anyone who even suggests that Islam is a violent practice gets binned with the "racist" term.
I was thinking more of the disapproval of anyone asking "why did they do this", "did the USA do anything to bring this on", "is our foreign policy slanted towards Israel and antagonistic to the Palestinians". It seemed the only acceptable attitude was, "they are evil terrorists, how do we stop them" rather than regarding them as people with a grievance or trying to understand their situation.
Frozen in rhetoric about "cowardly acts", etc. The definition of insanity is believing your own rhetoric.
My interest here was as a reminder of the losses we experienced, and what those people went through, and what has happened to the survivors.
To be honest, I should express the same thing about the flood of New Orleans August 29, 2005. The official death toll there was 1,464. The city was decimated. Many thousands of people were displaced, and lost their living. And as that was happening, I did feel it. I think the infamous date is part of why I remember 9/11 and not 8/29.
Maybe there's also the difference because one was an attack, the other a supposed natural disaster. In the Dec 26th Tsunami in 2004, around 230,000 were killed. But we don't mark that date either. I think, more distant. And that did not change my way of life, and neither did the New Orleans disaster. 9/11 did.
I don't see any silver lining either.
In conversation yesterday I just found out that a (recently hired) co-worker was communications officer for 200 ambulances at that event. He had mentioned that he was going to a memorial
I personally simply don't do ritual. Volunteering to help in a bad time is one thing, memorializing the events is very much another. As bad as this was it doesn't touch the scale what's happening in Syria, or any warzone for that matter.
The residue of this is that the government went into a full scale panic (from which it has not really returned) and taken on a strongly authoritarian bent. Our nation has become more xenphobic, the anti immigrant movements that have shaken up our culture were driven from this.
The damage to the country is far deeper than the deaths.
No silver lining, no lessons to be learned (that I can discern).
I was shocked, and we do have lessons to learn.
One month later (October 2001) I was at an ACLU activists conference in San Francisco. It allowed time for those attending to say a few words and many spoke of their reactions to those events. I told the conference:
In 1952 I returned from combat in the Korean War. One year later I heard of our CIA's overthrowing an elected government in Iran. More time passed before I learned that we (the US of A) installed a tyrant. Still more time passed before I learned that we (the US of A again) trained the Shah's secret police to frighten the Iranian people into obedience.
American foreign policy has for decades been on a collision course with our civil liberties.
That's what I told the conference. Later I began saying, and I still say, 9/11 was payback for America's Middle East foreign policy.
There are lessons to learn, but will America's leaders learn them?